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Jovica Ivanovski, from Six Macedonian Poets


The chapel is small and musty —
even the deceased has turned pale
the priest has sung for half an hour —
singing reading and reciting
and if he goes on like that
other graves will have to be dug
"he sings nicely," says a granny
"very nicely," agrees another
each of the relatives holds a lit candle —
a prayer to illuminate
the dead man's path to God
his sins have already been forgiven
his body will soon pass through the gates to eternity
but his soul is alive and perhaps lingers among us
maybe silently sneezing from the incense
then two left arms two right arms
a hearse a coffin a coffin-lid bunches of flowers wreaths
and the priest again
(a young village thug with a well-trimmed beard)
who says a last word of prayer
while the grave-diggers lower the coffin
on an improvised lift
then the living throw a handful or two of dirt —
ashes to ashes dust to dust
and the priest pours a bit of red wine —
dust to dust wine to...?
and the grave-diggers are back again
raising so much dust
that all those present scatter from the grave
as if scared of something
as if they've seen a ghost